Pentagon weapon buyers will re-solicit bids for a 30-day period if only one company submits a proposal for a particular contract, according to a U.S. Defense Department acquisition official.
While there are waivers - particularly in the case of equipment or goods urgently needed by troops in combat - the policy is intended to ensure the Pentagon gets the best bang for its buck, according to Stuart Hazlett, deputy director of program acquisition and strategic sourcing.
"We are telling our contracting professional to go back to their teams and say: 'Let's go back out on the street and possibly give somebody some more time,' " he said during a presentation at a Sept. 7 conference in Washington.
The policy is part of Pentagon acquisition executive Ashton Carter's Better Buying Power initiative, part of which calls for "promoting real competition."
Last year, the Pentagon obligated $370 billion, according to Hazlett. Of those contracts, about half were competed.
"We have to be able to look at: Why were there only 50 percent possibly competed?" Hazlett said. "Or why was there so much competed in one particular area?"
In a report last month, the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting recommended that government agencies "set and meet annual increases in competition goals for contingency contracts."
Last year, the Pentagon extended the bidding time for the multibillion-dollar Air Force tanker competition, allowing European defense giant EADS time to draw up a solo proposal. The company had previously partnered with Northrop Grumman, which decided not to bid on the contract.
In addition to major weapon programs, the competition also applies to services contracts.
"We've heard stories that on some certain types of engineering technical services, a contract may be written and then someone comes along and says: 'I need some more engineers to help support this particular program,' " Hazlett said. "We go right out and only possibly put a solicitation on the street asking for interested parties for five or six days. Well that's what I consider telegraphing to a particular contractor."
Many times contracts are not competed, specifically in sustainment, because the provider is unique, Hazlett said.
"That may not be in the best interest, though, of us trying to save money as we go into the out years," he said.
DoD spent $204 billion on services in 2010; $17 billion of which were engineering technical services.